Steps To Healing

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Today I went to a local park to think and pray about the message topic my friend will be sharing at Simonka House tonight: loving others, along with the other “one another” verses in the Bible.

I was also ruminating about this morning’s sermon, the Parable of the Sower: seeds that represent the Gospel message (the Good News of what Jesus did for us), and the types of spiritual soil in people’s lives to accept it. There’s the path (just surface), rocky soil (accepting, only to fall away quickly), thorny, weed-filled soil (good choked out by sin and the cares of this world), and good soil (acceptance and steady growth). What stuck with me was the idea that weeds are native to the soil and so easily grow with no effort on our part. How true is that?!

Strolling around the rose garden, I noticed a lot of stray pieces of wood chips and branches that had ended up in the grass pathways. As I began absentmindedly tossing or kicking them back into the rose beds, I had to admit that lately I’d let my spiritual garden get messy in my desire to sequester myself and just “be” for a bit. Instead of tending to it, I’ve simply distracted myself, letting the weeds do what the enemy intends them to do… choke out the good that God has planned.

It’s been a while since I’ve written, and He knows I’ve needed the rest. On top of adjusting after the divorce, I’ve had ongoing car troubles over this past month. Resting is okay and even expected, to a point, but the Lord gently reminded me that I must continue tending to my spiritual garden and stay closer to Him.

Yet God had something more to tell me this afternoon. Finding a bench in the shade, I was about to sit down when I saw a flash of red on the ground underneath it.
It was a painted rock in the shape of a half heart. On the back were instructions on how to find the other half. I chose a direction and then carefully took the required number of steps, finding the other half on the first try!
Finally sitting down, holding these painted rocks in my hands, the Lord gave me this thought: at some point you have to take steps to put your heart back together and heal. Tears filled my eyes as I let that simple truth move from my head into my heart.

On my own, this is impossible. But through Christ I will have the strength to take the necessary steps to healing (Philippians 4:13). One way is to serve others. For even as I heal, there is joy to be found as I continue stepping out in faith to “love one another” and “bear with one another” as He commands us to do (John 15:9-12).

As Christ followers, we must all take the time, with the help of the Master Gardener, to repent of and deal with the thorns, brambles and stick-tights of life. Everyone’s weeds look different, but Christ died so that we can be weed free! Each day His mercies are new, and as we open ourselves to be tilled and fertilized by the Spirit, He helps us dislodge the weeds. Then the seeds of truth He flings into our lives will grow, yielding a bounty of love, hope and light that we can then share with the world.

Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

Glass Half Full?

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Since the dust has settled from the divorce and changing my name, I’ve been taking a breather, praying and working through this odd season of life that has me examining my life and reevaluating what it is that I want in it. I was on my own while separated for two and a half years, but everything changed once the papers were signed. Now it truly feels like I’m starting over and moving on. Unfortunately, my feelings morphed from simply considering what sort of hobbies and “stuff” I really feel is worthwhile in my life – reorganizing and consolidating – to looking at my whole life, wondering what the heck I’m doing with it! Overwhelmed, I kind of folded up into myself, a lot like the rose in my photo, even taking a step back from writing, as well, to just “be” for a while.

God Sighting
Yesterday I made a quick stop for groceries and got back in my car only to find that it wouldn’t start. Each time I tried, the engine turned over but apparently it lacked either spark or fuel to fire up and take me anywhere.

My first thought, as a generally glass half full person, was how glad I was that perishable items were not among my purchases in the store.

Over the next 20 minutes or so I contacted a few friends, and thankfully one couple who live nearby came to my rescue. When they arrived, the husband asked me to go ahead and try starting it again, so he could hear how it sounded, and wouldn’t you know it, my car started right up!

After turning off the engine and restarting it again, my car seemed okay. The husband had an errand to run, but his wife and I ended up going out for lunch and had a great visit. Turns out that they were preparing to travel soon , so if I had called even a day later, I likely would not have caught them at all. It was perfect timing.

God knew I needed to reach outside of myself and talk with someone, so He used car troubles to prompt me to do just that! He truly does work in mysterious ways.

New Poem
Tonight I joined my friends to lead chapel time at the Simonka Place women’s shelter. The theme this evening was “Glass Half Full or Half Empty?” This afternoon, after a bit of prayer and once again surrendering my self-doubt to the Lord, He inspired me with a new poem to share:

“The Glass”

At times when the glass of life
feels half empty instead of half full;
At my wit’s end, amidst the strife,
yet good out of evil You pull.
Greater than all I could ask or think,
larger than my hopes and dreams;
Though some days are harder to drink,
still You’re working behind the scenes.
So I will keep looking to You,
my sparkling hope in this transition;
Smiling, knowing You’re not through,
for even now, You give inspiration!
Yes, thank You, Lord, that I have a glass
and that there’s something inside;
Yet beyond that, this moment can’t pass
without praising You, for You abide
in the future, the past and right now.
You hold my heart, Your love will prevail.
I trust that some way, somehow
Your perfect plan will never fail.
So I pour out my glass to You:
in surrender, I’m refilled each day,
peace and joy brimming anew
as by Your grace I get out of the way.
Daily closer to You I’m growing,
lacking nothing I need, in Your care;
Instead, filled to overflowing,
I forget the glass as Your love I share!

6-17-2018
©Ladeena Ashley

My life is different now than I ever thought it might be, but my attitude has remained focused on the bright side, seeing the glass as half full. Many times though, I’ve just been glad I have a glass and that there’s something in it. Contentment is great, yet as I wrote in the poem, we should take it a step further. Instead of focusing on the glass and how we view its contents, we should pour it all out to the Lord, so He can fill us to overflowing with His love, power, grace, strength, joy and peace. When we’re filled with Him and flowing out to those around us, we’ll forget that there’s even a glass!

I believe that is what Jesus meant when He said, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39) It’s not about us, our limitations or our circumstances, and it’s not about what we have or don’t have. We follow and serve the God of the universe! Through Christ we have been given access to greater things than all we can imagine!

The enemy will tell you that you aren’t good enough or smart enough. Resist him and he must flee (James 4:7). Instead, pour out your glass to the Lord so He can fill it with Himself, transforming and equipping you to perfectly fulfill His purposes. Through Christ you are more than enough!

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
All Rights Reserved (Blog Content and Photos)

Peace in the Pain

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I’ve written about waiting, of showing God’s love and caring for others by His grace. For over two and a half years, with heart fully committed to the Lord’s leading, I’ve done all I could to work toward reconciliation with my husband: from tough love, setting healthy boundaries, to counseling, offering help when appropriate, along with encouraging and of course, praying. Friends have said that I’ve been faithful and shown more patience and grace than anyone else they’ve met.

Late in March, however, despite my best efforts and prayer, the frustration and pain were so great that I began to realize that this could not be how the Lord intended us to live. Things just couldn’t keep going the way they were, and I sensed from the Lord that the time for waiting was coming to an end.

Sharing my struggles with a close friend, she suggested putting out a “fleece”, similar to what Gideon did (Judges 6:33-40), to confirm what seemed like the right choice. I decided to try it, and the Lord answered.

First I found a shiny penny while on my way home from church. Not knowing the year on it, once at home I prayed, “If it is from this year, then I’ll know it’s okay to divorce [him].” Since it was still only March, it seemed highly unlikely that it would be a 2018 coin, yet it was.

The second answer was after a heavy-duty time of prayer one evening several days later. I left everything on the altar, finally just asking for reassurance that divorce was okay in this case. As I walked into the next room after praying, I heard His still, small voice tell me, “It’s okay. I love you.” Those phrases repeated 3 times.

The third answer was even more profound: I awoke the next morning with an intense headache, mentally wringing my hands over the increasingly awkward and complicated situation with my husband. I desperately wanted to write in my blog, but felt emotionally and physically useless. My heart was broken and without reservation I simply thought this prayer: “If it’s okay to divorce [him], please just take away this headache, and I’ll sit right down and write the blog.” No sooner had I thought those words when my headache evaporated! The unopened bottle of ibuprofen, now unnecessary, still sat on the table. So, true to my word, I promptly grabbed my laptop and posted the April 7th blog entry.

Honestly, divorce was never an option in the past. Many times during arguments the subject would arise, but I immediately dismissed it. Even once I was ready to consider it, the Lord had to tell me three times that it was okay for me to walk away. The decision was not taken lightly, and only came after countless hours of tearful prayer. I’ve gone through several boxes of tissues!

I know God hates divorce, but He allows it because we are imperfect people who live in a fallen world. Yes, we’d made a commitment before God and with each other, but eventually we had to face the fact that it was not ultimately healthy nor honoring to God to remain married. For one thing, as I’ve mentioned in the past, the dysfunctional nature of the relationship and the ongoing stress it caused definitely took its toll on my body – my digestion and anxiety levels in particular have been out of whack for a long time.

What this all came down to is that my relationship with God is important and should be protected above all else. Jesus said “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26. Not that I should actually hate them, but instead I must love the Lord more. My love for God takes precedence over any human loyalties. We are called to love Him with ALL of our heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37). To do that, in this case I needed to walk away.

The divorce was final the day before I wrote my last post. I feel sad and relieved. It was the most difficult decision of my life, but under the pain, there is peace. Here is a poem I wrote about it:

“Peace in the Pain”

There is peace in the pain, calm even in my sorrows;
A rainbow in the rain, hope for our tomorrows.
A new chapter of life because another ends:
I’m no longer a wife, we’re now simply friends.
A decision so daunting, but the Lord walked me through.
So focused, only wanting His will in all I do.
There’s a time to mourn for the good that’s gone,
but joy will be reborn as with courage, we move on.
Missing a piece of my heart, yet my soul is in God’s hand;
I’m making a new start, stepping toward what He’s planned.
Into a future unknown, taking one day at a time;
By grace I don’t walk alone, even as I compose this rhyme!
What was meant for harm, the Lord turns all around,
As I resist the devil’s charm, I’m set on solid ground.
God makes beauty from ashes, bringing comfort in distress;
Rebuilding what Satan trashes, making a message of my mess.
God is working for my best, even through this painful story,
Overall, I’m still so blessed, and all to the Father’s glory!

5-6-18
©Ladeena Ashley

If you’re still reading this, thank you for caring and sticking with me. The negative stigma of divorce, especially in Christian circles, has lessened but there still is an element of judgment. I can’t help that. The Lord knows all about the situation, and by His grace I’ve done my best to walk in His love and according to His wisdom. Now I’m taking the next step into a new chapter of life. God will keep working on us, just not together, and it is healthier for both of us this way.

Blessings to you, this day and always!

Side Note: As you likely noticed, my last name is changed. I went back to my maiden name, which ironically has a better “ring” to it than “Bell”, I think.

©Ladeena Ashley
All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

Blooming Boundaries

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Last night my friend’s message at Simonka Place was about boundaries. None of the poems I’d composed before seemed to fit quite right. So, once again an 11th hour poet, after work I sat in my car and wrote a new poem. I finished the first draft and scurried to the homeless shelter, sharing my newest creation with the ladies about 10-12 minutes later. God is good!
After some further editing today, here’s the poem:

“Boundaries”

It’s far too easy to lose your voice
when people-pleasing is a knee-jerk choice.
Instead, identity in Christ my King,
I have strength to overcome anything!
Though I’m not perfect, I’m so much better:
Bolder overall – more of a go-getter!
I’m so blessed a new “me” has bloomed,
dispelling the fears that had me entombed.
More sense of self than ever before:
If limits are exceeded, I use the door
to walk out or show it to another –
loving myself, not appeasing my brother.
Thankful that God has taught me to live
more intentionally, my all to give
to Him, in surrender, so I could see
each pitfall and needed boundary.
Stepping forward, then edging back,
trusting Him for the words I lack.
Knowing when to let go and when to stay.
What to allow, and what I should say.
Not automatic, but filled with power
relying on God’s wisdom each hour.
More of a holy dance than a tightrope,
for Christ set me free and gave me hope!
He will ever lead as I seek His face,
navigating boundaries by His love and grace.

3-9-18
©Ladeena Ashley

My poem focused mainly on boundaries in relationships, however in his message my friend spoke of boundaries across many facets of life. The part that hit home with me was in the area of self-care. Taking care of myself has always been something I “should do”, a basic priority of life. (In my mind, boundaries are mostly outward while priorities are inward.) I called it self-discipline, but I didn’t consciously sub-define it as using boundaries within myself. Yet that is so true.

The recurring verse my friend used was: “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 10:23). We all have choices but don’t always make the best ones for ourselves, and by extension, for others.

My main struggle is getting enough sleep. I am a night owl, and have been for as long as I can remember. However, the last few weeks I’ve found myself staying up even later than normal, and it’s beginning to catch up with me.

Alone time is important to me, and I do need some time to unwind if I’ve had an especially hard day or to process things after a tough conversation. Yet often I’ll stay awake for unimportant reasons, usually ending up looking at a screen of some sort. Honestly, I hate to admit it, but at times lately I’ve felt so overwhelmed. So tired but not wanting to hit the hay because then morning soon comes and I have to do it all over again. I get stuck in my own head, right where the enemy wants me. No one deals as well with anxiety and the everyday stresses of life when their resources are depleted. It’s a vicious cycle.

Yet this is the opposite of how God calls me to be. Through Christ I am more than a conqueror! (Romans 8:37) God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Instead of avoiding the morning, I must pray, leave my troubles in God’s hands and most importantly, not take them back! Only after a full night’s rest can I hope to awaken refreshed and excited about the possibilities and blessings of a new day. I need better boundaries to stay out of an unhealthy rut.

One point my friend made that struck me last night was: How can I be there for others if I have barely enough energy to function myself? I can’t. Jesus set the example for us by napping when needed, and going off by Himself when the crowds got to be too much. Even God rested on the seventh day once He’d finished creating the cosmos.

We all need to take time to recharge, but there are limits and healthy ways to do it. The Lord has helped me set outward boundaries, and now it’s time to tackle and refine more inward ones. I’m glad He’s not through with me yet!

He’s not through with you, either. He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6). What boundaries do you need to set or adjust? Seek His guidance through prayer and His Word (and perhaps even some counsel of godly friends), and He’ll help you figure out what is both permissible and beneficial.

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2018 All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

Do A Happy Dance!

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Yesterday evening, while in search of a poem to share at Simonka, I came across a page of bits and pieces of poems I’d started a few years ago. Taking one of the longer ones, I proceeded to add, edit and scoot lines around until I had something that might be presentable and in alignment with the theme of the night: freedom in Christ.

I told the ladies at the shelter that God gives us many blessings in life, but the greatest is the blessing of freedom that we gain through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When I stop to think about it: that I’ve been truly set free from the power of sin, and that I have the Spirit of God Himself living in me, it gives me joy. We should be so excited about what God has done and is doing in our lives, that at times we could easily do a happy dance!

Here is the poem I cobbled together, that one of the friends I serve with jokingly called a “Frankenpoem”, due to the nature of its creation:

“Reign Dance”

Blessings, like raindrops, cascade from above.
My heart, soaked and singing, drips with His love.
Splashing through puddles without a care,
so happily drenched, no raincoat I wear.
Far beyond the silver-lined clouds above
the holy drops of forgiveness and love
fall in unending supply from the throne;
My salvation and peace are in Christ alone.
Gazing toward heaven, immersed in His grace:
Glorious freedom! For He took my place.
Trusting my Savior, who washed every stain,
I sway in sweet surrender to His reign.
Matching His steps so joyful and light,
following with confident hope so bright.
Dancing with abandon, cleansed and alive;
Grace flowing free, I daily grow and thrive.
His Spirit transforms me, I dance and sing,
praising Jesus, who is my everything!

2-18-18
©Ladeena Ashley

I hope and pray that you are as excited about your faith as I am! Sadly, the longer you’re a follower of Christ, the easier it is to lose spiritual vitality. Of course, the enemy of our souls would like nothing more than for all churches to be filled with a bunch of lukewarm believers who are complacent and therefore posing no real threat to his schemes. I pray that those who claim to be His followers are (or become) so on fire for the Lord that, when they get out of bed in the morning, the enemy says to himself, “Oh, no! They’re up!”

Through Christ, we have been set free! We must do all we can to avoid letting ourselves once again become slaves to one sin or another. We’re all works in progress, and for me, following Jesus is like a dance. Most of the time, the Lord and I move across the floor in tandem, but sometimes my timing is off. Or I’m tempted to try doing my own moves, hurting myself or others in the process. Or, heaven forbid, the song itself starts to become more important than my dance partner. Yet He patiently waits for me, and the music will go on as long as I have breath in my lungs.

The world needs to know that music! With every school shooting and act of violence in the world, it is painfully apparent how much the world is hurting. Millions of souls desperately need the hope and peace that only can be found in Christ – whether they know it or not! You may be the only Jesus someone sees, so share His love with others. Things are only getting crazier – the time is now.

Are you letting the Lord reign in your life?

If you are a Christ follower, you’ve been set free – do a happy dance and share your faith with others!

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

“Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” 1 John 5:5

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2018 All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

Joyful Journey

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God is awesome! This past Sunday evening, in preparation for chapel time at Simonka Place, I studied the chosen scripture passage (James 1:2-8) and began pulling out poems to share. Reading and rereading those Bible verses about joy in trials, persevering and seeking God’s wisdom, my own journey came into focus and I thought, “I sure have a lot of practice with that!” After a quick prayer, I was inspired with a new praise-filled poem, finishing it just in time to leave for the shelter. Barely half an hour later, after sharing a bit of my story, I read the new poem aloud. Here it is:

“Joyful Journey”

It’s been a tough, but joyful journey
from the moment I said “okay”.
I’m “all in”, in full surrender –
peace flows as I humbly pray.
Lord, You’ve stayed with me through this trial,
Giving me strength to persevere;
Holy wisdom each time I ask,
and faith to follow without fear.
Blessing upon blessing have come,
for You give as I give my all:
With support from my family and friends,
Your love has broken down every wall.
My pack is filled with Your promises,
expecting that one of these tomorrows
they will be fulfilled in Your timing –
leaving mere memories of past sorrows.
But today, I continue trusting –
no doubt of Your plans for me;
Walking daily with You, Jesus,
I’m thankful, loved, and free!

1-28-18
©Ladeena Ashley

One way I’ve had joy in my trials is by sharing my struggles and faith with others. In particular, to be a witness of God’s faithfulness to the women at Simonka Place, most of whom are way out of their comfort zone, hurting and in desperate need of hope. Having been in a similar situation myself, I can speak from a place of experience and a depth of compassion, with greater empathy for each soul I encounter. God is in the business of transforming lives and using bad circumstances for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28). My mess, placed in God’s loving hands, becomes a powerful conduit for His message.

And it never ceases to amaze me how He does it! The inspiration to write about my journey is already an incredible blessing, but then I get to read it aloud and have people respond with hugs and teary eyes, saying God spoke to them through my humble offering! As His servant, my prayer is always that folks see and hear Him, not me. I’m just along for the ride, but what a joyful ride it is!

I’m humbled and thankful to be used to encourage others, even as I continue trusting and waiting for His plan to come to fruition in my own life. For sure, the trials of life are not easy, but by God’s grace, I am persevering, one day at a time!

James 1:2-8:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

We can have joy today and hope for tomorrow, as we daily surrender our ways for His by seeking His wisdom above our own, and relying on His strength to persevere and grow.

Is your journey joyful, or are you simply trudging along the trail?

How can you help brighten the path for others along their journey?

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2018 All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

A Plethora Of Promises

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For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 1:20

We all make promises. We try to keep them, but sometimes we fail miserably. Thankfully, as a follower of Christ, I have witnessed over and over that we serve a God who is faithful, just and good, and we can count on His promises.

These past few years, I’ve leaned especially heavily on the Lord in prayer and in meditating on His Word; in particular, several promises have been an important part of my walk with Christ. Without the love of my Savior and the support of family and friends, I would have crumbled long ago, but God is faithful!

God’s promises offer hope, and hope is a powerful thing! It was such a blessing to share the hope I have in Christ, helping to lead chapel time at Simonka Place women’s and children’s shelter yesterday evening. Once again, the Lord inspired me to write a new poem only the day before! Here it is:

“The Promise Maker”

The promises of God forever stand;
He is faithful, His Word is true.
Clinging to Him as I walk this land,
I trust His love will see me through.
Yet some promises have a condition:
We must first ask, seek and knock.
A give-and-take of holy volition
with full surrender and daily walk.
If we believe, if we confess,
if we commit our ways and plans,
He will save, forgive our mess
and guide our lives with His hands.
God will never leave or forsake us,
He’ll finish the good work He’s begun.
The enemy seeks only to break us,
but in Jesus, the war is won.
God’s promises offer victory and power,
and all are “yes” in Christ our King,
on Whom we can rely every hour
to carry us through anything.
Claiming God’s promises, hearts overflowing
with thankful awe and peace, we pray
for wisdom and strength, seeking and growing
closer to the Promise Maker each day.

1-20-18
©Ladeena Ashley

As my teammate shared during chapel time, some are general promises, like God’s love for us. Other promises were directed at certain people or groups, but to all believers, as well. Many promises require action on our part before God will act, such as 1 John 1:9, which I referenced in my poem: “If we confess ours sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

According to one count, there are 3,573 promises in the Bible… a plethora of promises, you might say! The great news is, in His perfect timing and wisdom, God will fulfill every one!

No matter who else has broken promises to you, or let you down, God is good and He’s got your back! He loves you so much! If you seek Him with all of your heart, you will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13), and He will faithfully direct your paths as you trust in Him (Proverbs 3:5-6). Give your hurts to God, claim His promises, and watch Him move!

Here are a few of my favorite promises:

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.” Psalm 37:4-6

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

“Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you…” Psalm 55:22

“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” John 16:33

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2018 All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

 

 

Pining For A Happy Ending

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The Christmas season has officially begun, and I’m feeling a bit disjointed. This will be the third holiday season in waiting mode: living apart from a loved one while continuing to navigate new emotional territory in myself.

Those of you who don’t know me personally might have guessed by now that the relationship I’ve been writing about is indeed my marriage. My husband and I have been living separately for two and a half years. In the grand scheme of things, that span is barely a blip, but at times it seems like an eternity. This morning in Sunday school, we discussed patience and perseverance, and I’ve had plenty of practice with both! There is much that is unresolved and will take more time to work through, but God faithfully walks with me each day.

It seemed like a good time to reveal the nature of the relationship in progress, because I’d like to talk about Christmas movies – the cheesy romantic ones in particular. I’ve actually already watched several of them this season. For most who are living alone or struggling this time of year, the last thing they want to do is be reminded of what they’re missing, or that their situation is less than ideal. For me, however, it’s a pleasant distraction that offers a smidgen of hope that things can work out. Yes, I’m fully aware that it’s all just fluff, and real life is never fixed by a kiss under the mistletoe. Loose ends and troubles aren’t all neatly wrapped up in a big red bow within short time frames like they are in the movies. Real reconciliation and lasting love takes godly wisdom and tenacity.

No, I don’t rely solely on those sticky-sweet, unlikely story lines to give me hope. My hope is in Christ. When I’m feeling disjointed, I look to Him, trusting that He is active behind the scenes. None of this is a surprise to Him. In a way, each of us are in our own Christmas movie. Let me explain:

Many of the plot twists and story lines we find in chick flicks are similar to what happens with the Lord, such as the main characters disliking, ignoring or misunderstanding each other in the beginning. For instance, many folks these days celebrate Christmas while ignoring the reason behind it. Before we know God, we may not understand His character or believe what the Bible says about Him. Even once we do, we forget, or the antagonist of the story (the enemy of our souls) tries to convince us that God isn’t really as loving, trustworthy or perfect as His Word says He is. The angst and distrust between people make for interesting drama on TV, but in relation to God it’s a real spiritual battle.

Like a tentative couple in a movie, we walk snowy paths, spending time learning more about the Lord and getting to know who He is (minus the stolen smooches, of course!). Things go well, until complications arise and we wonder how this will all get sorted out. In the movies, it must happen within the final ten or fifteen minutes, but in our lives it may take hours, days, or even years, depending on how stubborn we are.

At some point, one of the characters often makes some grand or incredibly thoughtful romantic gesture to communicate their love. Of course, God already did that by sending Jesus to earth to die for our sins. It was the grandest gesture of all (Romans 5:8)!

In the end, with misgivings resolved and love professed and expressed in kind, the happy couple embraces, looking forward to a bright future of life together. Once we are reconciled through Christ by grace through faith, realizing and accepting God’s infinite love for us, there is a sense of wholeness, joy and peace as we are wrapped up in a spiritual embrace that assures the hope of eternal life (1 Peter 1:3-4).

How the Lord interacts with us is truly a holy romance. God has shown us His love in multiple ways; most amazingly by sending His Son, Jesus, to be born in Bethlehem, knowing He would eventually suffer and die on the cross in our place.

Here’s a poem I wrote in response to God’s pursuit of me:

“Holy Romance”

You have all eternity
to listen and care for me
Amazing love overflowing;
You wait so eagerly.
Who am I to deprive
my soul of all You give?
Holy romance of faith;
You’re the reason I live.
Longing for fellowship sweet;
help me leave all at Your feet.
Renew my mind, flood my heart.
Only in You am I complete.
May worldly chains be broken free
as You woo me by subtle charms;
Daily refreshing the Spirit in me,
’til in heaven, I run into Your arms.

4-18-03
©Ladeena Ashley

If you know the Lord, then you know how your story ends. Jesus rose from the grave so we could live forever with Him in perfect fellowship and love, in heaven. No cheesy Christmas movie can even begin to match that feeling. Until that day comes, we must keep looking to Him, trusting that all the broken parts are in His hands.

Sometimes I feel disjointed and often carried away by my emotions, but no matter how messed up life gets, or how drawn out the process, He ultimately holds my life together and all will work out the way it should, in His perfect timing. It’s taking a lot longer than two hours, but I’m okay with that because God walks with me and gives me strength (Philippians 1:6).

If you’re not sure how your story ends, look to God. He loves you, broken parts and all. Tell Him your misgivings, spend time with Him and trust Him with your life. Just don’t give up. Only God can truly fill that ache in your heart, and make you feel complete (Proverbs 3:5-6; Romans 15:13).

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

You Can Be Healed!

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We all need healing at many points in our lives. For some it is physical, for others it is emotional, mental or spiritual. When we cry out to God to alleviate the hurt, pain and struggles, we must come with faith and expectant hope that He is listening and will answer us (James 1:6). We also need to confess any sins and forgive others (and ourselves!) before we can ask for healing (Mark 11:24-25).

Sometimes we are miraculously healed the moment we place our request at the Lord’s feet, but because He knows us fully and responds to the deepest cries of our hearts, restoration may not be in the manner we expect. Other times we must participate daily in the healing process. A prayer of surrender may merely be the first step toward a long journey of slow but steady healing as He walks us through the necessary changes, often bringing caring people into our lives to help keep us accountable.

Prayer and Poem
Last night at Simonka House, we held a special healing service for the homeless women. Knowing that I’d likely be called upon to pray with them (I’m uncomfortable praying out loud with others, but working on it), I had prayed beforehand that He would “get me out of the way” and use this imperfect vessel as He saw fit. The Lord answered my prayer, in part, by giving me a new poem, which I shared. Here’s what I wrote:

“Current Of Grace”

God’s calling from the other side,
across the river of belief,
where healing waters flow swift and wide,
washing away the hurt and grief.
Not to worry if you can’t swim
– just let your fears go under;
Safest place is to be with Him,
immersed in hope and wonder.
Surrender to the current of grace;
Only His love can make you whole.
Arms open – lift up your face
and let the flood restore your soul.
Until finally you float ashore
and joyfully meet His gaze.
Complete in Christ, you’ll want no more
than to overflow with praise!
So take the first step to healing
God will meet you where you are;
The joy the enemy’s been stealing
will come to you, near or far.
Take the plunge, no hesitation!
Be renewed by the deep river
that flows without reservation
from the Great Physician and Life Giver.

6-9-17
©Ladeena Ashley

God Showed Up
Joining the team in the front of the chapel room was not easy for me, but while anointing and praying one-on-one with the women, the Spirit moved powerfully! It was especially meaningful when a couple of the women asked for deliverance from depression and anxiety. Having experience with that myself, I related on a deeper level and prayed with more passion and authority in public than I ever had before! One more way God uses the negatives in our lives for good! (Romans 8:28)

My Journey
Looking back over these past two years, I’ve experienced almost overnight spiritual healing, and others have noticed the amazing personal transformation in my life. Emotional healing takes longer, but the Lord has been faithful and will continue walking with me every day as I lean fully into Him.

Victory!
Another area of steady healing for me has been financial. In fact this week, after languishing under a dismal cloud of debt for most of my adult life, I can now say that I am debt free! I praise the Lord every day for the wisdom, faith and resourceful strength to endure those hard times and emerge victorious!

In Closing
God loves you so much, and longs to be gracious to you (Isaiah 30:18). Whatever you may need healing for, take the plunge into His Living Water! Don’t simply stick a toe in the current of grace, or you won’t experience all that God has for you! Surrender fully to His love today and your fears and hurt will be swept away! (Ha! That rhymes!)

Faith Notes
This song by one of my favorite artists fits well with today’s theme:
Jordan Feliz – “The River” (Note: Link will open in new window.)

“Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to His anointed. He answers him from His heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of His right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:6-7

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

Patience or Indifference?

20170406_125109Periwinkle – April 6, 2017

This evening, before eating dinner, it was a challenge for me to focus and pray. For some reason I’ve been in a bit of a funk. (I partially blame the dismal, drizzly weather, though it does make for some gorgeous raindrop-accented photos.) Not depressed, just not sensing God’s presence quite as much as I had been.

For one thing, all this waiting is taking its toll on me. One minute I’m full of faith and hope for reconciliation, and then in the next, I’m tired and ready to throw in the towel. When I last inquired of the Lord about continuing to wait, I sensed that I should indeed stay the course. It was a simple answer, and there’s a reassuring peace in knowing, but it is brutal just the same.

So tonight I thanked the Lord for my job and what I’d accomplished today, and for the meal. Then, out of my mild malaise, I asked Him to show me if there’s something I need to be doing differently, because I don’t want anything holding me back from His will in my life. Sensing that I should let my dinner cool just a few moments more, I opened my devotional book, “My Utmost For His Highest”, and read today’s entry.

God answered using the words of Oswald Chambers, who pointed out that there’s a difference between patience and indifference, and the key is to keep focused on the Lord as our source of inspiration and strength. That there will be seasons when we don’t hear anything (or very little) from the Lord, and we must endure like Jesus did when He was tempted in the wilderness. Thankfully I’m not in a “dry season”, but it does happen.

While waiting, there have been times that I’ve slipped from patience to indifference. Waiting is painful, and I’d rather not think about it! Yet I have all the fortitude I need, and more, in Jesus. Furthermore, there’s actually great value in struggling, for when all is well and I cease striving, it’s all too easy to become complacent in my faith. In fact, faith seems less necessary when life is good. Yes, we should be content with what we have, but there should also be a “holy discontent” that keeps nudging us from the good we enjoy and do, toward the even greater things He has waiting for us in the wings!

Here’s a prose poem about striving for God’s best:

“Greater Blooms”

Dancing in dandelions
Oblivious to roses of promise
Content with what we have.
Yet in the fields, God is calling
to reject the blithe comforts
– to long for greater blooms.
We cannot see for all the ochre
Happily we exist in present blessings.
Beyond the field is danger
Extending our hearts to break
or soar, enfolded in love’s wings
to land amidst magenta petals
yet now out of imagination’s eyes.
But God sees all and waits
to bless us once we’re ready
to take the risk to dream.

12-17-98
©Ladeena Ashley

I don’t know how things will play out, but God does, and therefore I will continue to wait. Not with indifference, but with a joyful expectation that grows as I humbly keep my eyes focused on Him! (Hebrews 12:1-2)

In Closing…
If life is going well for you, thank the Lord but don’t stop striving.

If you’re waiting on God for something, I pray you can wait with joy for His will to work out in His perfect timing.

Whatever you may be going through now, count your blessings you already have, and stay focused on Christ, because your answer is right around the corner!

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photo)